Hubble Space Telescope Finds Closest Massive Black Hole to Earth – Cosmic Clue Frozen in Time

Using the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered the closest massive black hole ever discovered: a cosmic giant “frozen in time.”

As an example of an elusive “intermediate-mass black hole,” the object could serve as a missing link in understanding the connection between stellar-mass and supermassive black holes. The black hole appears to have a mass of about 8,200 suns, making it significantly more massive than stellar-mass black holes, which have masses between 5 and 100 times that of the sun, and much less massive than the aptly named supermassive black holes, which have masses millions to billions of times that of the sun. The closest stellar-mass black hole scientists have found is called Gaia-BH1, and it lies just 1,560 light-years away.

The newly discovered intermediate-mass black hole is located in a spectacular collection of about ten million stars called Omega Centauri, which is about 18,000 light-years away from Earth.

Increasingly zoomed-in views of the Omega Centauri star cluster, with the final image showing the proposed location of an intermediate-mass black hole.

(Image credit: ESA/Hubble/NASA/M.Haberle (MPIA))

Interestingly, the fact that the ‘frozen’ black hole appears to have stunted its growth supports the idea that Omega Centauri is the remnants of an ancient galaxy that was devoured by our own.

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